Marthinus Ferreira, chef and owner of dw eleven-13, has added The Grazing Room, a modern tapas bar, to his Joburg menu.
Call 011-341-0663 or visit dw11-13.co.za
Marthinus has just returned from co-judging Ultimate Braai Master, a show that involved 58 days on the road with Justin Bonello and Bertus Basson. He tells me it was fun but heavy going. “I wasn’t worried about leaving the restaurant though; I’ve got a fantastic team and that’s key. Jessica Faye Cook runs the tapas bar and she knows how I like things.”
When the space became available, Marthinus took the opportunity to expand on his fine-dining restaurant, dw eleven-13. “A lot of people don’t want to have a heavy meal so tapas allows them to have smaller dishes and share,” he says. “We try to use as many different food cultures as possible – anything from Asian to Italian and British.” The Grazing Room is an extension of the brand but they are completely different entities. Here, patrons are able to experience Marthinus’s inventive dishes in a more relaxed environment; it’s all about sharing and having the opportunity to taste more of his offerings. Jess has started drinks pairing on The Grazing Room menu too; I notice that it includes craft beers as well as wine, another element that sets them apart from the rest.
“Many people are a bit nervous to choose a wine to pair with their food and that’s why we have a wine steward. At the end of the day people eat out to have an experience that’s unlike anything they can cook at home. A lot of time and effort goes into constructing the menu and experimenting to come up with the perfect dish. Our menu is based on what’s fresh and available and it changes regularly,” says Marthinus. “I’ve wanted to be a chef since about standard six [grade eight] – when I realised the rugby career wasn’t going so well!” he laughs. Marthinus studied at the Institute of Culinary Arts in Stellenbosch and from there went to work for Franck Dangereux at La Colombe. “Franck had a big influence on me and my cooking; I was with him for a year before heading overseas.”
It’s clear that he has been driven to learn from the start, beginning his stint in the UK as a commis chef at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant at the Berkeley Hotel. It was during the height of Chef Ramsay’s restaurant empire and Marthinus clapped eyes on him just once during the year. From there he moved on to become chef de partie at the Riverside Brasserie owned by Heston Blumenthal and then found himself working alongside the great chef at The Hinds Head and The Fat Duck.
“I worked in the lab at Blumenthal’s restaurants and on my days off I’d go and work in places like Nobu. I wanted to learn as much as possible as the goal was to eventually open my own place.” Blumenthal is a pioneer in the field of molecular gastronomy and his influence is evident in Marthinus’s cooking – silky smooth Parmesan spheres that burst in your mouth are just one example of this technique.
On his return Marthinus had difficulty finding the right job. “So I decided to bite the bullet and put a business plan together with my folks. We found the premises and got stuck in fixing up the venue.” It’s a true family business with Marthinus’s mom, dad and sister all playing a part. From a slow start in 2010 the restaurants have gone from strength to strength. Marthinus’s passion for his restaurants and his craft is evident as he speaks.
“I take my business seriously and love what I do. I’m always trying to ensure that our standards are just as high as those overseas. It’s about integrity and sticking to what you do well – keeping a small menu of the best dishes and ingredients allows us to serve food that people come back for.”
In their first year dw eleven-13 achieved fifth place among the top 20 restaurants in the country – an amazing recognition for such a young chef (Marthinus was only 28 at the time). “A lot of pressure comes once you make the top 10 and people’s expectations increase. We knew we had to up our game and so an even higher standard of food and service evolved. I believe that this year my food is better than it’s ever been: I have wonderful staff, we’ve worked hard and been nominated a third time. At the end of the day you’re only as good as your team and I’ve got a great team.”
By Dylan Swart
By Dominique Brown